A Conversation with Local Musician Michael McHenry
Local musician Michael McHenry’s brand of rock music has been described as soulful, psychedelic, and funky. With over 35 years of performing and recording experience, he has toured and played with bands including Sheena Easton, The Jacksons, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Locally, he’s worked with with Caribash, Clones of Funk, Six, Mama Jama, Mary Ann Redmond, Tommy Lepson, Nadine Rae, Kevin Walker, Jeremy Ragsdale, Dunns & Drummer, and the Michael McHenry Tribe. Additionally, his music has been featured in many TV and radio ads. His playing has been described as full of contrasts: tender and sweet, fierce and ferocious. But one thing is for sure—it always comes straight from the heart.
JPB: Where did you come from and what brought you to this point?
MM: I come from here…from Annapolis. I was born at the Navy hospital. I was an Army brat and so, I lived in Germany… where I first saw the cover of Jimi Hendrix’ record and just stared at it. I wanted to play guitar, not necessarily to play songs but to make noises… I was obsessed with him…every Friday we could all bring in a record and teachers would play it and all these kids had, like, Mickey Mouse records and I had the Jimi Hendrix record, Purple Haze. The teacher sent a note home, saying that no one should bring a record that wasn’t played at home, and my mom sent a note back, saying this is ALL he listens to at home! It wasn’t until I was maybe 13 that I got my first guitar. I still have it and still play it. I just learned, just taught myself. I’d drop the needle on the record and learn it…I had a knack for it. I learned very fast.
JPB: How would you describe the Annapolis music scene to visitors? What should they not miss?
MM: They should not miss a Friday or Saturday Night at Stan and Joe’s, or Sunday morning at 49 West (Coffeehouse, Winebar & Gallery), Sunday or Saturday evening at 49 West, and there’s Rams Head On Stage, Rams Head (Tavern) in the front window, Middleton’s – you gotta’ go there on Saturday night when it’s so crazy, packed and I mean, that’s pretty much it! There are a lot of solo artists who play at Metropolitan (Kitchen & Lounge), always a good place to see somebody, cause mostly you can do your original stuff there, so that makes that place really cool. It’s just a lot to see, a lot of different type of acts too, but I think everybody’s kind of unique. Nobody’s really copying each other; hopefully we all respect each other.
JPB: What do you take personally from music; what does it give you?
MM: Some strange sense of purpose… To me, I feel like I’m adding something positive to the world… what I get from it is connection with the audience; even if it’s just one person in the audience, it’s like a connection back and forth… we’re not thinking about our problems or politics, and the music is all that we’re focused on. It bonds people from different walks of life.
JPB: What would you consider to be the perfect gig? Where would it be, and who would be with you?
MM: It would probably be outside and would probably be daytime with a nice breeze, and a nice crazy audience. As far as musicians, that’s kind of hard to say. I know a lot of great musicians…just the people who are positive and open-minded to my way of playing because a lot of my way of playing is improvising. I’m notorious for not having a lot of band practices because I try to pick people for their personality and then we go on stage and see what happens. And a lot of musicians kinda’ don’t like that, they want to know what’s going to happen…Yeah, the unknown is so exciting to me…
JPB: In the future, what do you hope to be known or remembered for?
MM: Just that I did my own thing, and tried to be an example for people: If you can live your life the way you want to live and just be yourself, you’re fine. And hopefully, I will have achieved my main focus and goal in life: to make people forget about their problems for a little while when they listen to my music.
This interview has been condensed and edited for publication. Check out the full interview here:
For more information, including music and tour dates, click on the Michael McHenry Music website.
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